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A2 Music

Course booklet

An outline of A2 music

Key focus Areas

Course Outline

Year Plan

Topics in Depth

Marking and Grade Boundaries

Created by Miss E Creed


In this short guide you with find an outline of the A2 music course so you know what to expect. All the tasks outlined also say which teacher will be teaching you that element. If you have problems however, you can speak to either of us. There is also a year outline with the main coursework deadlines and some information of elements you should start thinking about straight away. This is just an outline and everything in this guide will be gone over in much greater depth in lesson time.
Enjoy A2!

Miss Creed

At A2 the focus of the course shifts slightly, main areas of study that are assessed in all areas of the course are;

Tonality and Interpretation

Tonality: at AS Level, you acquired a broad understanding of tonal principles within the language of Western tonal harmony. At A2, you should broaden this understanding by exploring more complex chords and tonal relationships.
Interpretation: techniques and issues of interpretation will be explored in all of your musical activities.

  • The Performer as Interpreter: building on the appraisal skills applied both to your own performing and to differing realisations of Prescribed Orchestral Scores at AS Level, you should demonstrate your interpretative understanding in a substantial recital and show, in a discussion with the examiner, how this has been informed by close critical listening to the interpretations of other performers.

  • The Composer as Interpreter: you will choose an extra-musical stimulus (either text-based as a poem, narrative or storyboard, or one or more visual images) to interpret in a composition in your own choice of style and medium.

  • The Critical Listener: as well as a specific listening task designed to inform your performing, you will extend your understanding of the composer as interpreter in Unit G356: Historical and Analytical Studies in Music through focussed listening, analysis and discussion of techniques used by composers, working at different times and in different cultural and musical contexts, to interpret extra-musical stimuli.

Unit G354: Performing music 2; (Interpretation) Total 120 marks

CR-assessed Practical Examination (visiting examiner)

Section A Recital: solo, ensemble or accompanying (maximum 15 minutes)

100 marks

Section B Viva voce: interpretative understanding (approximately 5 minutes)

20 marks

Unit G355: Composing 2 Total 90 marks

Teacher-assessed Portfolio: Miss Creed

Section A - Stylistic Techniques: exercises (maximum 8) based on:

• chorale harmonisations in the style of J.S. Bach

45 marks

Section B - Composition: Mrs Mendelssohn

one of:

• vocal setting of a text (maximum 120 words or 4 stanzas)

• instrumental interpretation of a programme (maximum 4 minutes)

• music for film/TV (maximum 4 minutes)

45 marks

Unit G356: Historical and Analytical Studies in Music Total 90 Marks

Timed Examination Paper (1 hour 45 minutes + 15 minutes preparation time)

Section A Aural extract: accompanied vocal music 1900 to 1945.

Taught by Miss Creed

40 marks

Section B Prescribed topics: two questions from three on the topic Post-1945 Popular Music

The Three Albums chosen as set works are;

  • Beatles – Sgt Pepper Taught by Mrs Mendelssohn

  • Queen – A Night at the Opera Album Taught by Miss Creed

  • Nora Jones – Too Late Taught by Mrs Mendelssohn

50 marks

Total A2 Marks = 300 or 50% of total A-level


This is a rough guide to your coursework deadlines so you know what to expect.




In the first half term you should have completed

  • Choose the theme for your performance and start research.

  • Complete one Bach composition extract

  • Decide on, and find, your composition stimulus.

In the third half term you should;

  • Be able to talk in depth about your chosen theme for you performance and be growing in confidence in the performance of these.

  • Hand in three more completed Bach extracts.

  • Hand in a completed composition score.

In the fifth half term you should…
…have completed all your coursework already so you will be focusing on exam prep for the timed exam.

Half Term

Half Term

Half Term

In the second half term you should;

  • Fully research your performance theme and hand in photocopies of the music you have chosen to perform.

  • Complete two more Bach composition extracts.

  • Complete 1st Draft of Composition.

In the fourth half term you should;

  • Complete your rehearsal of your performance as the exam is most likely to be this half term. It won’t be later but it could be as early as February.

  • Complete the final Bach extracts.

  • Rehearse and record your composition.






Performance 120 marks

Candidates are required to perform a practical examination, which is externally assessed by a visiting examiner.

Candidates are required to demonstrate interpretative skills and understanding through performing (Section A: Recital), and in discussion with the examiner
(Section B: Viva voce).

Candidates are required to explain the focus of their recital programme and record details of the critical listening and research they have undertaken in preparation for it on a viva voce preparation form which is given to the examiner.

Candidates are required to perform on one instrument or voice

Section A: Recital 100 marks

he programme should last no longer than 15 minutes.
The repertoire performed should have a focus that demonstrates an in-depth understanding of a single idiomatic style or genre, either in the form of one or more movements from a multi-movement piece (e.g. a sonata), or of a small group of shorter, related pieces.
Scores in must be provided for reference by the examiner.

Section B: Viva voce 20 marks

Candidates are required to have listened to, and compared, at least two interpretations of music relevant to the style or genre that is the focus of their recital in Section A and to have supported their study by appropriate research. This should be recorded and kept as a log throughout the course. The examiner will explore, through discussion with the candidate, the relationship between the candidate's listening and reading and the interpretative choices made in performing the recital programme.

Candidates should be able to:

• demonstrate an in-depth understanding of their focus style or genre and the different performing choices and conventions associated with it;

• show awareness of different interpretative possibilities;

• explain their interpretative decisions; and

• appraise the effectiveness of their decisions in their performance.

Candidates may, if they wish, illustrate their points by demonstrating on their own instrument (or voice).
Before you go into the exam you will prepare for your viva and be given a list of questions that have been asked in previous years.
The discussion should last about five minutes.


Composition 120 marks

Section A: Stylistic Techniques Miss Creed 45 marks

Candidates should submit a set of no more than eight exercises, one of which must have been completed under centre supervision towards the end of the course. All the exercises will be completed in the style of Bach chorales.

Candidates are required to submit one of the following types of composition lasting not more than four minutes:

Section B: Composition Mrs Mendelssohn 45 marks

1. Vocal composition

A setting of a short poem or other text, normally of not more than four stanzas or 120 words.

2. Programme music

An instrumental composition for four or more instruments, interpreting a narrative text, character or visual image.

3. Film/TV composition

Music to accompany a storyboard, DVD clip, TV title theme, cartoon or advertisement.

Whichever option is chosen, candidates define their own brief for their composition, which they must explain fully in a commentary.
Candidates should be able to demonstrate:

• effective choice and use of materials;

• technical and structural control;

• expressive use of the medium; and

• clear communication and realisation of intentions.
The submission must include the following:

• the brief, including a copy of the original text or stimulus in a form appropriate to it (if the original language is other than English, a literal translation should be provided);

• a recording in either the intended instrumentation or reduced as a piano or synthesized/sequenced demonstration; and

either a full score in a form appropriate to the style (to serve as the principal examination document) – Most of you will do this option.

or If you are also a music technology student and you have the facilities to create a professional quality recording then you can submit a full commentary on the methods of mixing and producing the master recording (which becomes the principal examination document assessed on production values).


Historical and analytical Studies 90 marks

Section A: Aural extract 40 marks

A timed Examination paper lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes + 15 minutes preparation time.

Candidates are required to answer all the questions on a recorded extract drawn from an example of accompanied vocal music composed between 1900 and 1945. A complete or almost complete score of the extract is provided. If the text of the extract is in a language other than English, a literal translation will be given.

Candidates are advised to spend not more than 40 minutes on this section of the question paper.

Using appropriate technical language, candidates should be able to:
• recognise aurally and explain techniques and effects used in the interpretation of the text;
• demonstrate an understanding of relevant tonal procedures;
• compare stylistic features with other examples from the repertoire; and
• comment on relevant features of interpretation in the performance.

Section B: Popular Music 50 marks

Three essay questions will be set, of which candidates are required to answer two. The essay questions will relate to the set works shown in the table below.

Topic 6

Popular music

Musical interpretation of lyrics through melodic, harmonic and structural means, use of technology, recording processes, performance and the interaction between voice(s) and accompaniment.

Prescribed repertoire

Related repertoire

The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

British pop music (by groups and solo artists) from the 1960s

Queen, A Night at the Opera (1975)

Examples of glam rock from the 1970s; music performed by ‘super groups’ with international fame

Norah Jones, Not Too Late (2007)

Examples of music from contemporary

Grade Boundaries

Layout of Complete A-level

Grade Boundaries for individual Units

A-level Units

% of complete A-level

Marks for each section

AS Unit G351: Performing Music 1



AS Unit G352: Composing 1



AS Unit G353: Introduction to Historical Study in Music



A2 Unit G354: Performing Music 2 (Interpretation)



A2 Unit G355: Composing 2



A2 Unit G356: Historical and Analytical Studies in Music



% of A-Level

Marks for unit

Unit grade and mark boundaries























Grade Boundaries for the full Qualification






















Candidates achieving at least 480 marks in their Advanced GCE, i.e. grade A, and who also gain at least 270 in their three A2 units will receive an A* grade.

These Grade boundaries are subject to slight change but they should serve as a reference point for you.

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